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Jewish World Review June 8, 2000 /5 Sivan, 5760

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports

In the computer's clutches -- DEAR BRUCE: Try and top this one: I have tried to cancel a well-known bank card for the last four months. I simply don't need that much credit. I found that when I do apply for loans that I need, they hold the credit availability of $15,000 against me.

I have written the credit card company on five different occasions, sent the cards back cut-up and told them that the account is to be closed.

I continue to get a monthly statement, even though I have not used the card. I just got a statement with a balance from the annual fee. What do I have to do short of bombing the headquarters of this bank to get them out of my hair? -- B.R., via e-mail

DEAR B.R.: I sympathize, because dealing with computers -- and that's what you are doing -- is a very frustrating proposition. Write one last letter, and make copies.

In the letter, you need to state that you hold your credit reputation dear and will hold them civilly responsible if any erroneous information results in your credit reputation being damaged. The information in this letter will simply advise them that the account has been closed and that you have no intention of accepting any further charges and you would appreciate that they cleanse their computer.

If you receive any further communications, simply enclose a copy of this letter and mail it to them. The likelihood is that this will take several months before someone will catch on. It is so frustrating in this computer age. It's almost impossible to get to a living, breathing person that can straighten things out for you.

DEAR BRUCE: I am a recent college graduate and have been accepted to several law schools. I have narrowed my choices to two. My question is which one?

School A is a prestigious one and known all over the country and would open many doors for future employment. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's priced about the same as two world cruises.

The other school that I am considering is a state school. As far as state schools go, it has an excellent reputation, but in no way can it be compared to the other school. That's the bad news. The good news is the tuition is about 15 percent of School A's.

Which do I choose? I can borrow enough money for the first school, but I will be paying forever. -- P.T., via e-mail

DEAR P.T.: The question really is, what do you want to do with your law degree once it is obtained? If you want to go to work for one of the major law firms in the country, the reality is that School A is the place to go. That's where they recruit their associates, who later become partners.

If, however, you were going to go out on your own, there is absolutely no reason to go to the expensive school. Very, very few clients will ask you where you went to school. They only want to know what you can do for them. The direction that you choose for your life will dictate this very important choice.

DEAR BRUCE: Guys like you give me a royal pain. I am working my fingers to the bone with overtime so that I can get my house paid off before I'm 35. Every single extra nickel goes into the mortgage payment -- that is my goal.

My harebrained wife listens to you and reads your column. She says that you think it is stupid for a young person, like myself (32), to pay off a low-interest mortgage (6-1/2 percent).

Why is it stupid to get out of debt? My folks told me that you should never be in debt, and I intend to follow that advice, which I think is good. This is causing a huge rift between me and my wife. Would you please explain yourself. -- R.M., via e-mail

DEAR R.M.: Your "harebrained" wife is right on track, and you are doing something that is industrial-strength stupid.

You are giving back impossibly low-cost money (6-1/2 percent) before it is necessary, and that is dumb. Your parents, G-d bless them, tried to give you good instincts, but in this area they were wrong. There is nothing wrong with debt. In fact, without it, people like yourself would never have a home. Who could pay cash for a house?

If you have the discipline, and you seem to, you would be far better advised to take your extra monies and invest them in some reasonably aggressive instruments.

Over a period of time, history shows us that you would be well ahead of paying off your house, and you'd be no more in debt under this method, because you would have an offsetting balance in your investments. What difference does it make if you owe $100 or $10,000 on the house if you have $10,000 or more in your investment account? I would apologize to my wife if I were you. You are the foolish one.

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


06/07/00: The trouble with tenants
06/05/00: Do I really need title insurance?
06/01/00: The truth about nursing home insurance
05/30/00: Keep mother-daughter loan simple
05/25/00: CDs for security, not investment
05/24/00: Battling with collection agency
05/22/00: Are callable CDs a waste of time?
05/18/00: Building a college fund
05/16/00: Even death brings no relief
05/15/00: House is 'worth' what's offered
05/12/00: Borrow from Mom and Dad?
05/11/00: Your heirs, your choice
05/09/00: Mutual-fund investigations
05/05/00: Credit cards vs. debit cards
05/04/00: Lawyer are good for something
05/03/00: The binding nature of contracts
05/02/00: You know you are in trouble when ...
05/01/00: Can primary residence be rented out?
04/28/00: A full refund after five years?
04/25/00: Get a homeowner's title policy!
04/24/00: Beware of errors in your favor
04/18/00: $10,000 limit on gifts
04/17/00: Invest or repay student loans?
04/13/00: Beware of Internet auctions
04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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